Jim Harris, LCM Director
Copyright LCM 2019
“Jim Harris has written a telling piece of literature that encompasses the 50s and 60s, sometimes before those dates and sometimes after, in a low key/high interest method I’ve not encountered before….The story is not linear through the years. It zig zags. One time, he is a child remembering; at another he is a teen and at another he is grown. He is a reader beginning with the reference to Poe. By the end he is a college man familiar with Dos Passos….One character asks of the times ‘What is happening to us?’. The same words are being spoken today, now, another time, another generation. Many of us can share the feeling: ‘Here I am in a place I shouldn’t be.’ “
--Texas Literary Critic, Joyce Roach
“Perfect!…I applauded when I finished reading it the first time….The title has encapsulated the coming-of-age years for the protagonist affected by the political culture hidden while inculcating its dark power on the young man…. I recognize the culture of Texas and how it promotes the light and dark sides, with the dark side growing stronger politically.”
--Texas Writer and Folklorist, Sylvia Mahoney
In the Rear View of an MG Triumph
Ruby Dallas is a coming of age novel. As the title suggests it is set mostly in Dallas, Texas and the surrounding area. Shortly after it begins there is a narrative account of Steve, the protagonist’s chance meeting with Jack Ruby, around closing time, with Ruby the sole patron in the small restaurant where Steve cooks a ribeye steak to Ruby’s liking. Ruby gives Steve some passes to a club Ruby owns. And the adventure begins.
Ruby Dallas is Steve’s quest to understand himself and the city, the world he inhabits. Coinciding with Steve’s psychological, emotional journey, there is a literal, geographical journey Steve takes alone and with others, with friends who go with him to Ruby’s strip club, where things go wrong.
On his journey, Steve goes to Arkansas, Oklahoma, Hollywood, and Nacogdoches, Texas, where his journey ends. The novel ends about a month after the Kennedy assassination, and Ruby’s shooting Oswald. Steve is about to depart from Nacogdoches, where he’s been attending college.
The novel travels in time as well, going from the early 1960’s into a foray of Steve’s childhood, and Steve’s quest to understand his place in his Baptist minister father’s world, the world of his father’s friends and his mother and his younger brother and sister. On this journey, there’s a poignant account of Steve’s father meeting his own father, whom he had not known till he was a grown man, a meeting also of Steve’s grandfather’s second family.
Drag racers, farmers, cowboys, journalists, photographers, struggling actors, and college professors are a few of the people Steve encounters and sometimes befriends on his journey.
It’s a novel of fate, destiny, and self- will, a novel of integrity. Jack Ruby’s tragedy is the tragedy of Dallas. There’s tragedy in Steve’s life as well, but also the joy of striving, and living life on his terms, all the while mindful of those who came before him, and who share his world.
A brief encounter with a desk clerk in a cheap hotel in Little Rock, Arkansas is one of my favorite scenes because it’s so true to life, as is a scene, earlier in Steve’s life, where he’s at a lake in Oklahoma, noticing the physical beauty of his friend’s mother. There are many memorable scenes, some violent, others raucous, solemn, tender, that invite us into Steve’s world of Dallas and points beyond.